WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — President Donald Trump is repeating his claim the United States has more coronavirus cases than any other country due to “bigger and better” testing.
While the president is correct about the U.S. conducting more COVID-19 tests than any other nations, many of the world’s top health experts aren’t in agreement that the high case number correlates directly to the numbers of tests.
“We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc.,” Trump wrote in a Thursday morning tweet. “NOT REPORTED!”
In late June, officials with the World Health Organization said they don’t believe the fact many nations are seeing a record number of infections is simply the result of countries increasing their testing.
“We do not believe that this is a testing phenomenon,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said. “Clearly when you look at the hospital admissions, [they] are also rising in a number of countries and deaths are also rising. They’re not due to increased testing per se. So there definitely is a shift in the sense that the virus is now very well established on a global level.”
According to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, hospitalizations in the U.S. have been rising since the last week of June. At roughly 43,000 hospitalizations for July 8, we’re back to mid-May figures.
A challenge over the last few weeks has been states like Florida, Texas and Georgia seeing increases in both cases and test positivity rates. As states boost their testing numbers, we’d expect to see the positivity rate stay level if the infection rate were holding steady, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
WHO guidance suggests governments should see positivity rates below 5% for at least 14 days before relaxing social distancing measures. According to Johns Hopkins, 19 states meet that threshold while states like Arizona, Mississippi and Florida have a positivity rate around 20%.
What no one can debate with President Trump: the United States has dramatically increased its testing. According to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, more than 650,000 tests are being conducted daily compared to fewer than 20,000 daily tests in early March.
Johns Hopkins University researchers note the number of tests being done doesn’t correlate with whether a country has the virus under control.
“Testing programs should be scaled to the size of their epidemic, not the size of the population,” researchers note in the university’s Coronavirus Resource Center. “Several countries effectively controlled the spread of the virus through testing programs that had a far lower number of tests per capita than the U.S.”
While the U.S. has conducted more tests than any other nation, it doesn’t rank at the top for testing per capita, behind Russia, Spain and Australia, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Americans confronted with a resurgence of the scourge are facing long lines at testing sites in the summer heat or are getting turned away. Others are going a week or more without receiving a diagnosis.
Some sites are running out of kits, while labs are reporting shortages of materials and workers to process the swabs.
Some frustrated Americans are left to wonder why the U.S. can’t seem to get its act together, especially after it was given fair warning as the virus wreaked havoc in China and then Italy, Spain and New York.
“It’s a hot mess,” said 47-year-old Jennifer Hudson of Tucson, Arizona. “The fact that we’re relying on companies and we don’t have a national response to this, it’s ridiculous. … It’s keeping people who need tests from getting tests.”
It took Hudson five days to make an appointment through a CVS pharmacy near her home. She booked a drive-up test over the weekend, more than a week after her symptoms — fatigue, shortness of breath, headache and sore throat — first emerged. The clinic informed her that her results would probably be delayed.
On Wednesday, the U.S. reported 58,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases — nearing Wednesday’s all-time daily high of 60,000 cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report